Diamond Rings’ new album is bedroom pop with ‘umph’
By Ron Johnson
Diamond Rings’ new album drops today
Diamond Rings wasn’t supposed to get this big, this quickly. John O’Regan was using his new, ultra-glam musical persona as a way to exercise his more theatrical side, while continuing to play in indie rock bands such as The D’Urbervilles. But a funny thing happened on the way to another rock show. Diamond Rings got hot in a hurry.
Now, with the second Diamond Rings full-length album dropping today, O’Regan finally seems to be comfortable at the helm of what is looking like one of the most important Canadian music releases of the year.
“The theatrical side of me really needed to get out in the open,” says O’Regan. “Diamond Rings was a way out, but I didn’t conceive it would become my day job. It was just a way to get the other ideas out there.”
Since the release of his 2011 debut album, Special Affections, Diamond Rings has been on hot lists across North America, often being billed as some sort of cross-generational union of Lady Gaga and David Bowie. He’s a cool, gender-bending electronic musician with post-punk street cred — which, once you see him perform, actually makes a lot of sense.
O’Regan has signed a big record deal with Astralwerks, toured his first release around the world and opened for Swedish pop star Robyn. The buzz has been relentless.
But, if one thing is absolutely clear after speaking with O’Regan, what people are saying about him matters very little.
“All that is relative, you know,” says O’Regan. “I’ve been making music for a long time. I’m glad of the response it received, but I’m always looking to improve. Focusing on what other people think would be paralyzing. At the end of the day, it’s just me in my room. I trust that if I’m into it others will be as well.”
The new album, Free Dimensional, sees the continued evolution of Diamond Rings. The DIY aesthetic of Special Affections has been tempered by a well-placed wallop of “umph,” as O’Regan puts it, courtesy of co-producer Damian Taylor (Björk, Austra). The lyrics, though no less thoughtful, are more universal than personal and speak to an artist coming into his own.
“It is still a bedroom pop album, and I still write and record in my home studio in the west end of Toronto,” O’Regan explains. “But I was able to work with Damian Taylor, who really added a lot of umph and gave the songs a sort of gravitas that they needed and wanted. It ended up being a really nice mix of those two realms.”
O’Regan grew up in a typical suburban home northeast of Toronto in the city of Oshawa. His parents weren’t particularly musical, and he was quite the jock in high school, playing volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and hockey.
“I didn’t go to shows. I wasn’t even close to near the pulse of what could be described as anything like a music scene,” says O’Regan. “That’s why I don’t take these privileges for granted, and I’m extremely grateful to have this opportunity to do what I do. I know what it is like to flip burgers.”
Free Dimensional is in stores on Oct. 22.